The “Crumbs” is what they call themselves — the diehard fans of the band Cracker, who camp out before shows and traverse California following their favorite melodies. Monday night, I found the Crumbs sweaty and smiling, honored to be in the same room as the 24-year-old band.
“They’ll follow us from show to show because we have a different setlist every night,” said Johnny Hickman, lead guitarist and vocalist. “They’ll even help each other out with places to stay for each show.”
And if you didn’t think Crumbs could get any sweeter, nearby strangers at the show would spark up conversation and revel in their love for the band along with their anticipation for the performance. Before the band even came on stage, the tipsy crowd cheered for sound check, knowing it was getting closer to start time. When the band appeared, they erupted.
Cracker’s presence wasn’t too intimidating — it was something like seeing your favorite uncle walk in the room. A very talented uncle.
David Lowery and Johnny Hickman’s fans prove why the group has been together for more than a decade. For one, they’re dedicated. But while a majority of the crowd was made up of people the age of 30 or older, their sound reaches beyond Generation X.
“I have people with me who are in their 20s, 30s and 40s. This music is great for all ages,” said Jennifer Chassman, who was celebrating her birthday with friends at the show.
Though the band has a strong following of people in their 40s, younger crowds showed they were just as committed.
“They’re all over the map, age wise,” said Hickman.
After making their stop at the bar for a pint, about 85 people trickled into SLO Brew at 7:30 p.m. for the performance. No students, no Snapchat stories, just Cracker and their fans’ dance moves — the ones you only see adults perform at family reunions. I almost felt ashamed to be standing near the front for photo ops; I didn’t want to take away space that could be replaced with diehards. But the fans weren’t fazed.
“I’ve probably been to 40 shows of theirs and they never disappoint,” Tracy-Lin Buntz said.
With his new Cracker album in hand, Berkeley to Bakersfield, Cal Poly alumni and former KCPR DJ Ben Simon explained his fascination with the band.
“I love how eclectic they are and the sarcasm they use in their lyrics,” he said. “They capture the true spirit of classic rock.”
Since the release of their hit song “Low,” Cracker has created music ranging from psychedelia to blues and punk.
“They call us the ‘Godfathers of Americana music,’” said Hickman, half laughing. “And that’s an honor.”
The performers that contribute to the band’s many albums are what make up their eclectic style. The people that currently perform with Cracker are from Georgia, where it recorded Berkeley to Bakersfield. But out of all the genres it’s accomplished, country and rock is what its fans seem to favor.
“‘Low’ was the closest thing I had heard to The Rolling Stones,” said Simon. During his time at Cal Poly, the fan used to get warnings from his KCPR manager for playing the band multiple times in one session. “I played at least one of their songs every set of mine.”
Both from Redlands, California, Hickman and Lowery became friends in the early ‘80s. On their new album, they decided to portray two genres that were heavily influenced by the regions they grew up in: Farmlands that sparked their interest in country music and college campuses that were the epicenter for politics and punk.
“We identify with Bakersfield because our connection to country and Berkeley because of our college education,” Hickman said.
Both of these sounds reoccurred throughout the performance plenty of times. Hickman would layer his higher voice with Lowery’s to assemble the folky, country sound while both punctured the microphones with heavy vocals for punk.
Starting the 9 p.m. set on the SLO Brew stage, Cracker walked out proudly. The band began slowly with long guitar solos that kept the crowd enthralled until the climax of the show — the very end. Through the performance, Crumbs would raise their hollow drinks in the air and scream lyrics with the artist. To say the energy dissipated by the end of the show would be doing it a disservice. And while the fans label themselves as the Crumbs of Cracker, the band clearly makes them feel otherwise.